We live in a world that is obsessed with identity. We classify ourselves by the color of our skin, the color of our hair, our age, our weight, our height, our experiences, our preferences. We recognize each other as students, or teachers, or workers, or managers, or as members of some other group. We think in terms of "us" and "them." Divisive political rhetoric seeks to blame and shame others. Each identity term is loaded with meaning and associated expectations. And in a lot of ways, what we perceive about our own identity is reflected in the ways we end up treating each other.
When I was first invited to contribute to this blog, the editors expressed an interest in hearing from college students who are "actively thinking about their faith." In fact, they reached out to a group of us at USU in part because of our involvement in a new interfaith initiative on our campus. With the invitation to share personal experiences, commentary on current events, or to explain little-known aspects of my faith, I realized that much of my motivation to participate in interfaith work--and by extension, the way I have fundamentally come to view myself and others--is found in the answer I have received to the central question, "Who am I?"
As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I have been taught since I was a little girl that I am a child of God. Over the years, this simple truth has been instilled in my heart in more ways than I could count. I have read in the scriptures, heard the testimony of others, and prayed for confirmation from God, my Heavenly Father, and He has helped me to know that I truly am His daughter. I have felt the truth of Paul's declaration in the book of Romans, where he explains: "The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God." For me, an understanding that I am a child of God means that I know I have both infinite worth and potential--the opportunity to be a "partaker of the divine nature" if I exercise faith in Jesus Christ and keep His commandments, doing my best to love and serve those around me as brothers and sisters in this great human family. Importantly, I know that each and every one of us can come to know who we are--the truth that we are all children of God--because I trust that He will tell us so if we ask Him sincerely.
Although we may understand what "being a child of God" means in different ways, I believe that recognizing this fundamental identity in some way in each other should unify us, reducing the temptation to blame, shame, or hate others who appear to be different from us in some way. Ultimately, "Latter-day Saints see all people as children of God in a full and complete sense; they consider every person divine in origin, nature, and potential." I have come to understand what Sister Rosemary M. Wixom has taught--that "once we begin to see the divinity in ourselves, we can see it in others." Elder Jeffrey R. Holland has promised, "When we look beyond people's color, ethnic group, social circle, church, synagogue, mosque, creed, and statement of belief, and when we try our best to see them for who and what they are--children of the same God--something good and worthwhile happens within us, and we are thereby drawn into a closer union with that God who is the Father of us all."
Because I know that I am a daughter of a loving God who wants the best for me, I know that others around me similarly have unlimited potential and worth. No matter what self- or society-imposed identity classifications there may be between us, I know that as we look beyond self-doubt or perceived differences with others, the world will be a happier, more peaceful place. We are all members of a family--and each of us has infinite potential and worth. We should not allow ourselves (or our political, social, or cultural leaders!) to insult and degrade each other in fear. Let us instead recognize great worth in ourselves and in each other, and better fulfill our inherent responsibility to lift, help, and serve one another with love.